A STROLL DOWN EAST WATCH
Artist Ted Nasmith takes us through painting a castle that George RR Martin hasn’t even fully visualised yet
1For Eastwatch by the Sea, the castle guarding the eastern terminus of The Wall, I had little to go on from the novels. George RR Martin admits there’s no proper description of the castle, though he says it’s clear in his mind. My version is not accurate, he told me, while conceding that was understandable.
It wasn’t part of the official series, but a private commission by a fan. I draw thumbnails to quickly establish the basic composition, with elements of castle, ice wall and seascape. I chose the sketch that had a better balance of the three elements.
2I consulted photos of Arctic and northern landscapes, knowing the ice wall would appear blue-green, and saw it under brooding, windblown cloud, strategically lit from behind.
The castle stone and cliffs would be dark in contrast, and with indications of woods, rugged hills and almost black seas, I quickly worked up a colour sketch. It establishes the colour, composition and light balance, and general detail, creating the template for the final art. Often I’ll paint two or more colour studies, but here I felt confident with the one sketch.
Martin admits there’s no proper description of the castle, though he says it’s
clear in his mind
3The final artwork conforms quite closely to the sketch version. I elaborated on the castle to give the focal point of detail, with a small, sheltered port town in front, as hinted in the sketch. The Wall’s end should be something less than a simple, squared-off design, so I kept the angled corners that I sketched out in a previous thumbnail.
The distant shoreline and hills were refined to better serve the image, and for the breaking waves. I consulted the rich tradition of seascape art by such masters as William Trost Richards and Alfred Thompson Bricher. I also consulted a picture book I own titled Superior: The Haunted Shore. A collection of narrated photos, it evocatively captures Lake Superior’s wild winter darkness, a mood I readily adapted to Eastwatch.
For me, such imagery is deeper in my DNA, perhaps due to being Canadian. Harsh, lonely wilds and colder, more forbidding landscapes seem to arouse my happiest artistic instincts and haunt my thoughts.
Coming from an architectural background, Ted appreciates Ice and Fire’s “believable continental mass: sophisticated, logical. As with Tolkien, Martin describes not only its breadth but its deep history and lore. Martin’s elaborate detail offers excellent material for the artist to base imagery upon.” Of the two titans’ masterworks, Martin’s is the more narrative driven – a fact that Marc Simonetti used to his advantage to produce one of George’s favourite paintings.
The art is inside the book. I’m making an image that’ll make someone want to grab the book
“The minute I saw Marc’s work on the French book editions I thought to myself, ‘this guy is great, let’s hire him for some more,’” says George.
If it wasn’t for Marc Simonetti’s singlemindedness, this recognition might not have happened. He trained as an engineer, and one day while formulating the coatings for non-stick frying pans he decided to jump ship and start from zero. He was already painting every spare moment and had devoured Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld books, before turning his attention to Ice and Fire. That was a good start. After “tons” of FFG Game of Thrones card art jobs, an impressed publisher gave him carte blanche on international Ice and Fire book covers. With an intimate knowledge and love of the text, given further force by a rare humility, he got
Cold as ice 3D artist Martin Rezard worked up initial designs of the fearsome White Walkers for the TV series.
First Ranging Jean Pierre Targete took the developing character Jon Snow for
this FFG card piece. stuck in. “I’m not making art,” says Marc today. “The art is inside the book. I’m making an image that’ll make someone want to grab the book.”
impressionistic Marc’s usual approach to such a vast world would be to pick on the smallest detail: “A glimpse of two lines from a thousand pages”. Indeed, for Ice and Fire he didn’t want to represent a scene from the book at all. “I wanted to make a generic illustration to give the idea of how big it is, of how adult it is – it’s not the average fantasy book,” he says. “It’s not about a classic scene of fighting, or a wild effect. It’s about
intelligence, people – real characters. That’s why I tried to stick to a more traditional feeling, Impressionist, Sergeant, Sisley, Whistler.”
For a Mexican edition of the books he painted the Iron Throne – made of a 1,000 swords. George was impressed, but it wasn’t quite there yet. An exchange of emails between the two preceded Marc’s second attempt, for forthcoming book The World of Ice and Fire. The result was spot on. “The second version of the Iron Throne that he did, it really is the Iron Throne the way I see it,” declares the author.
Valar morghulis The future looks healthy for Ice and Fire art. Donato Giancola is enjoying his work on the 2015 Ice and Fire calendar – he’s even trying to change the fabric of time so he can extend the project. “I’ve been working on sketches and concept drawings for the past two months,” he
George is a fan of artists and believes that you prime the pump and then let the artist do what they do best
says, “and I jokingly told George that Westeros should have 14 months to their year, just so I could create more paintings.”
Long before trying to establish the Donatonian calendar, the artist took to this fantasy world some 12 years ago with a commission to paint Melisandre, Red Priestess of the Lord of Light. It should come as no surprise who was on hand to give him some pointers. “George is a fan of artists and believes that you prime the pump and then let the artist do what they do best,” says Donato. Those old habits again!
And unlike the other popular fantasy epic that’s long since closed its enchanted stone doors on events, there’s no end in sight for this densely webbed story or the accompanying artwork.
With the sixth book of the series imminent, and the fifth TV season already snapping at the author’s heels, many more brushes and styluses will be wielded to help visualise what George RR Martin continues to see in his mind’s eye.
The Others “I think this piece was the inspiration for the Others in the official graphic novel adaptation,” says John.
John worked on his 2012 calendar while the first TV series was in production, creating unique interpretations.
Gateway Kimberley Pope worked on the HBO series in Belfast, creating concepts for all the main environments.
Art studio Karakter worked on many matte paintings of Qarth for season two – when Daenerys and her pets confront
The Spice King.
Mother and son Marc Simonetti has painted several of the characters, as well as his iconic take on
King’s Landing’s Iron Throne.
Dany The moment Daenerys becomes the Mother of Dragons – as depicted by Michael Komarck for the Game of Thrones FFG card game.
The art of Game of Thrones
books We’ve got 10 copies of Fantasy Flight Games’ Art of Game of Thrones books to give away.
To enter, head on over to
Devil in the detail Kimberley’s mural is added to the front view of the as-yet unconquered Qarth.